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How Reed Blankenship handled his unusual role vs. Giants

Reed Blankenship had an expanded role against the Giants and handled it well.

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It’s not completely unheard of for a safety to wear the green dot on his helmet during a game, but it is pretty uncommon.

And that’s what Reed Blankenship had to deal with last week.

“Give credit to Reed,” de facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “That’s a tough deal.”

Against the Giants on Christas Day, the Eagles were without their two starting linebackers, Nicholas Morrow and Zach Cunningham, because of injuries. And Nakobe Dean is already out for the season after foot surgery.

So entering a game where Patricia knew he was going to be rotating at the linebacker position, he wanted one consistent voice to relay his play calls from the sideline. And the obvious candidate was Blankenship, the second-year undrafted safety, who has been a mainstay of the secondary this season.

In the NFL, the green dot signifies the one helmet fitted with radio communication to the coaching staff.

For Blankenship, it signified even more.

“It was a fun experience,” Blankenship said. “I kind of like being the vocal guy out there. It made me feel confident that they trusted me enough to be able to relay the calls back and forth.”

Blankenship, 24, made his 17th career start on Monday night. But it was the first time in his NFL career that he was responsible for getting play calls to his 10 defensive teammates. He handled that responsibility well for all 63 defensive snaps in the Eagles’ 33-25 win over the Giants.

The toughest part?

“You might be 30 yards away from the play, you’re running back, you’re putting a lot of mileage on there,” Patricia said. “You’re trying to get it communicated to the front and everybody else.”

The logistics of being a safety in this role can be tricky, simply because there’s a lot of actual ground to cover and a limited time to do it.

“As a safety, you have to make the call and then get back in coverage,” Blankenship said. “Sometimes, I could feel the Giants break the huddle and I’m like, ‘Oh, I got to get back.’ On the sideline, [Fletcher Cox] said, ‘You’re doing a good job. You’ve got time.’ So after that conversation, everything kind of settled down and I enjoyed it.

“It’s a different thing. If you’re a linebacker, you just have, what, 3 to 5 yards (to move). But at safety, you gotta go 10 to 15 and then see what formation you’ve got. But I enjoyed it and if I get the opportunity again, I’m going to love it.”

Cox could sense a little bit of that anxiousness from Blankenship. Cox estimates that after about the second defensive series, he found Blankenship on the sideline to give him some advice.

Basically, Cox told Blankenship he was doing a good job but reminded him to breath and told him that he had enough time.

“He did a really good job,” Cox said. “After that, he kind of calmed down, got everything right. It was actually pretty neat to see.”

While Blankenship joked that his southern accent might have made it difficult for some of his teammates to get the calls, Cox is from Mississippi and said that wasn’t an issue for him. And earlier this season, the Eagles had to get used to Dean’s Mississippi drawl.

This season, Blankenship is a full-time starter for the Eagles and very rarely leaves the field. He missed Week 2 with a concussion but in the 14 other games this season, he’s played 98% of the Eagles’ snaps on defense.

That was a major part of the reason he got the green dot in this game. And it was a contingency the Eagles had thought of before.

While it was new for Blankenship to be the on-field communicator in a game, he said he wears a green-dot helmet in practice just in case a situation ever came up where he’d need to take over those responsibilities in a game.

“I always hear the call but it’s different when you’ve got to relay it to 10 different guys, especially when the Linc is going crazy,” he said. “You’ve got to be loud and you’ve got to be confident with what you’re saying. If I get the opportunity again, I’m going to enjoy it.”

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